SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Members of the Saratoga community, who rely on migrant workers during track season, are concerned after there was 16 immigration arrests this week.
The arrests came as a shock for some people here who say migrant workers play a huge role in the prosperity of this community.
“I think it’s the American dream that drives many people,” Krystle Nowhitney Hernandez, the Deputy Director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, said.
Migrant workers are a big part of Saratoga Springs. The community openly welcomed them in light of the new immigration policies.
The latest sweep happened on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, released this statement:
“Following an ongoing investigation, special agents and officers with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 16 unlawfully present foreign nationals Tuesday, in Saratoga Springs. The men, one Guatemalan national and 15 Mexican nationals, who are between the ages of 19-49, currently face administrative immigration violations. The arrests occurred without incident near multiple area residences.
Nine of the individuals are facing potential federal felony charges for re-entry after deportation or visa fraud. They are currently being held at the Albany County Correctional Facility. As the investigation is ongoing, no further information will be released at this time.”
They were arrested near their homes and were primarily restaurant workers.
There are many families who work at the Backstretch of Saratoga’s racetrack. Families offered help through programs at Saratoga County’s Economic Opportunity Council (EOC).
“I do think that there is increased fear and concern,” Hernandez said. “The immigrant community faces more challenges. I think it’s important to remember the immigrant community represents a range of legal statuses.”
At the race track, migrant workers are described as indispensable as they are the backbone of the racing industry that often times isn’t recognized.
“They wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning, every morning. It could be February, two degrees outside and snow on the ground, they’ve got to get out of bed and tend to the horses. They really are the eyes and ears on the ground,” Paul Ruchames, Executive Director of the Backstretch Employee Program, said.
Most of them here on H-2B visas but the fear remains.
Organizations like the Backstretch Employee Service Team says the best thing to do is to have a plan.
“Just knowing what their rights are and having access to some kind of legal consultation,” Ruchames said.
Many organizations like the Backstretch Employee Service Team and the Saratoga County EOC offer programs to connect with those services.
The 16 individuals arrested are currently being held in Albany County Jail.
ICE is not releasing much more info into the investigation.